Why The Gifted is the most relatable superhero show on TV

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Sep 3, 2019, 7:57 AM EDT (Updated)

The fall television season is in full swing, with more superhero shows than ever filling network, cable, and streaming platforms. Fox, which already features DC Comics series Gotham and Lucifer, is undoubtedly hoping that the market for such shows is not yet oversaturated, as the network will be adding the Matt Nix-created The Gifted to its prime-time lineup beginning October 2.

Loosely set in the X-Men film universe, and executive-produced by the minds — Lauren Shuler Donner, Bryan Singer, and Simon Kinberg — behind nearly two decades' worth of successful movies featuring the superpowered characters, The Gifted follows an underground society of mutants who are seeking the most basic of desires: survival. It’s a theme that makes is relatable to countless viewers today (well, minus the awesome superpowers … probably).

Both in print and on screen, stories featuring mutants and the X-Men have often reflected real-life social injustices. Like so many marginalized groups fighting for their inalienable rights, mutants are normally portrayed as hunted, discriminated against, and all too often unaccepted by those in a position of power. For this reason, Professor X and Magneto — two of the most well-known mutant leaders in the comics and films — are frequently compared to civil rights pioneers like Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X.

While Professor X and Magneto are unlikely to appear on The Gifted (well, it would be a major surprise, to say the least), the series is still set to tackle discrimination and civil rights issues head-on, as the show takes place at a time when many mutants are forced to hide their true identities or risk being sent to detention centers.

“There’s a lot of talks about [social injustice] in the show,” star Percy Hynes White told SYFY WIRE. “Just the fact that people are being segregated and hunted down because they are genetically different — it’s blatantly about segregation; there are a lot of strong themes about that in the X-Men universe.”

White plays one of the central teenage characters, Andy Strucker, who is forced to go on the run with his family after he displays destructive mutant abilities at a school dance. But take away his mutant powers, which fans will learn quickly are pretty spectacular, and Andy is a character who may remind many viewers of themselves.

“He’s relatable to a lot of people my age,” White explained. “[He’s an] angsty character, just a regular teenager.”

Even before the first signs that he is a mutant emerge, Andy, who doesn’t quite fit in, struggles with an unfortunately common problem for teenagers and anyone else who may be considered a little “different.”

“He gets bullied at school, [and] he can’t really relate to his mom or his sister, [and] he doesn’t have a lot of friends,” White said of Andy. “Those are common problems for a lot of people.”

The Gifted 2

Credit: Fox

Early in the series, though, Andy will learn that he is not alone in his family after all. His sister Lauren Strucker, played by Gotham’s Natalie Alyn Lind, is also a mutant, though she initially feels forced to hide her status from both her family and friends. Lind explained that the identity concerns Lauren initially deals with in the series are similar to struggles that teenagers all over the world experience in real life.

“[Lauren] sees mutants as being a sickness, and she doesn’t want [people] to know that she’s different,” said Lind. “There are a lot of teenagers my age who are going through not necessarily fitting in and not being true to themselves.”

For this reason, Lind hopes that the series will resonate with teenagers, and that it could possibly help those who are having trouble with their own identity issues — whatever they may be.

“[What Lauren] realizes in the pilot essentially, is that [after] coming out with [who she is], she finds people that are exactly like her, and she puts together this new family [from] these underground mutants,” Lind explained, adding that “[The Gifted] is so cool because a lot of different people can watch and relate.”

That The Gifted is so relatable is just one way the series could set itself apart from the nearly two dozen comic book adaptations that will be vying for audiences’ attention in 2017. But Fox’s new show could also break the mold when it comes to what fans are used to seeing from superhero series.

“This show is really from the perspective of a regular family, so it’s not really about being superheroes, it’s not really about saving the day, it’s more about surviving and saving yourself,” White explained, noting how The Gifted differs from series that feature more traditional superheroes.

“It’s not a superhero show,” he added. “It’s a show mainly about family and survival.”
Lind agreed, telling me, “What separates [The Gifted from other series] is that a lot of comic book shows are based on the fact that there are superheroes going out and saving the day … our show is about an underground society of mutants, and they are getting picked off one by one by the Sentinel Services. And our mission in life is to protect each other and protect our family.”

The Gifted 3

Credit: Fox

Of course, while viewers may not see the types of superheroes common in some of the other popular comic book series on television — you know, those who sport bright spandex, wear capes, and are largely praised by the general public — Lind assures me that there will be plenty of superpowered characters who audiences can get behind.

“We definitely do have our superhero mutants,” she said. “In the long run, we are these cool badass mutants that can do [some really awesome things].”

Still, while there is much that separates The Gifted from its peer series, there will certainly be some good old-fashioned fan service, and that may include Lauren Strucker’s identity. While being careful not to reveal any details, Lind did tease that when it comes to her character’s comic book identity, “there might be a little surprise in the series.”

The Gifted was created by Matt Nix, and in addition to Natalie Alyn Lind and Percy Hynes White, stars Stephen Moyer, Amy Acker, Sean Teale, Jamie Chung, Coby Bell, Emma Dumont, and Blair Redford. The Gifted premieres on October 2 at 9PM on Fox.

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